Op-Ed: Dutee Could Have Done Without Row Over VIP Status

Is Dutee Chand a VIP? Going strictly by the definition of the term, which stands for Very Important Person, she certainly is one. After all, she is the fastest woman athlete in the country at the moment, has represented India at the Olympics and has won several medals for the country in international events. What more could one do get the coveted tag of a VIP?

But was she is right in publicly airing her grievance about not being allowed to park her car in the VIP parking place near the Jagannath temple? The answer to this question, I am afraid, has to be an emphatic ‘No’. Far from enhancing her status as an international athlete, her Facebook post on Friday rhetorically asking “Who is a VIP?”actually demeaned her in the eyes of many of her fans. Many in fact derided her for her post, some politely and others not so politely. At a time when public resentment against the all-pervasive VIP culture is mounting in the country, her clamour for the VIP label actually showed her as someone with feet of clay rather than as the fleet-footed sprint queen that she is.

Her grievance, of course, is perfectly legitimate given the kind of people who have walked away with the VIP tag. Everyone from the President down to the Chairperson of a zilla parishad is a VIP in our country. For many of these ubiquitous VIPs, traffic comes to a halt to facilitate their hassle-free passage through the road. And their ‘achievements’, which mainly come from winning an election, are nothing compared to what Dutee has achieved in her sporting career. So Dutee, who already has so much to show for her efforts on the track, was well within her rights to expect to be treated at least on par, if not better, than the dime-a-dozen so-called VIPs.

But her outburst on being left out of the VIP list was wrong on at least two counts. First, such distractions are the last thing an athlete of her promise, who still has plenty to achieve, needs at this stage of her career. There are plenty of examples in the sporting arena of promising sportspersons ruining their career in their craze for the trappings of celebrity status. Second, she was barking up the wrong tree. If the traffic policeman in charge at the VIP parking lot in Puri did not allow her to park her car there even after she revealed who she was, he was only doing his duty: to allow only those who have the ‘VIP pass’ to park their car. Athlete that she is, she should have taken it sportingly and moved on. In fact, she has herself revealed in her post that she had the same experience earlier too. Hence, she should have known what to expect and not insisted on being allowed in. If she was so keen to have the VIP tag, she could have taken it up with the concerned authorities discreetly without raising a din over it. By going public, she laid herself open to the charge of hankering after VIP status. It is possible that in doing so, she wanted others to take up her case rather than do it herself. But unwittingly, she lost the respect of a lot of people in the process as is evident from many of the comments on her post. The fact that she was asking for VIP treatment while on a darshan of Lord Jagannath, in particular, did not go down well with many of her well wishers.

At a personal level, I must confess I was disappointed with her public outburst because I have always liked the girl from Gopalpur and admired her tenacity, resolve and determination. I have seen from close quarters her ordeal when she was banned by the International Amateur Athletics Federation (IAAF) for hyperandrogenism. The way she put that disappointment behind and fought back with grit to book a place in the Indian athletic contingent for the Rio Olympics was one of the great sporting comebacks of our times.

But sorry Dutee, you could have done without this needless controversy!

(DISCLAIMER: This is an opinion piece. The views expressed are author’s own and have nothing to do with OTV’s charter or views. OTV does not assume any responsibility or liability for the same.)